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Larimore Public Schools to hold special election for new elementary gymnasium

The Larimore Public School District is hosting a special election on Nov. 16 to approve issuing general obligation bonds that will be used to construct a new gymnasium at Larimore Elementary School.

Larimore Elementary School Gym Addition Plans.JPG
Larimore Public Schools Superintendent Steve Swiontek talks about plans for the Larimore Elementary School gym additon. (Ingrid Harbo/Grand Forks Herald.)

LARIMORE – At Larimore Elementary School it's a race against time each day to make the lunch room into a gymnasium.

The school’s multipurpose room serves as both, and staff members have 30 minutes between lunch and the first gym class to prepare – hardly enough time to clean up the messes made by the school’s 220 students, says Kylie Swanson, elementary school principal.

“If you’ve ever seen little people eat, you would totally understand that comment because sometimes it’s a hot mess,” said Swanson. “Taco in a bag is not my custodian’s favorite day.”

But the Larimore Public School District has plans to solve this messy problem: a new gymnasium. The district is hosting a special election on Nov. 16 to approve the issuance of general obligation bonds that will be used to construct a new gymnasium at Larimore Elementary School.

“They will no longer have to worry about peas and carrots on the floor as they get ready for physical education,” said Superintendent Steve Swiontek.

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The 13,000-square-foot addition would add more to the school than just a gymnasium. Plans for the addition detail girls and boys locker rooms with showers and bathrooms, expandable bleacher seating for 250 people, a lobby with concessions and bathrooms, an office for a physical education instructor and storage area. ICON Architectural Group in Grand Forks designed the addition.

The proposed addition would cost the district $4 million. Swiontek says $1 million would come from Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Funds from the federal government and reserve funds. The other $3 million would come from general obligation bonds. The tax increase for the project is estimated at 11.57 mills over 20 years, which would cost residential property owners $52.06 per $100,000 of residential value per year, and commercial property owners $57.84 per $100,000 of residential value per year.

Swiontek believes the addition will not only benefit the elementary school’s students, but Larimore’s community of 1,300 as well.

“It will be a fully air-conditioned facility that’s available to the community 12 months a year,” said Swiontek.

The addition will create much needed space for learning, working and playing in elementary school, says Swanson. When not being used for gym classes, the new gymnasium would serve as a space for assemblies, indoor recess, meetings, special education classes and use by other teachers.

“It gives my paras and teachers a spot to work with small groups of children, or if they’re giving an assessment of any sort, it’s a quieter area for them to do a one-on-one assessment or a small group assessment.”

Larimore Junior-Senior High School has two gymnasiums, and a new one at the elementary school would be a third venue for sports practices and events. The current lack of practice space at the schools requires some high school teams to practice in the mornings before school, while others practice after school. The extra space would allow all sports teams to practice at the end of the day.

Swanson said the lack of practice space also limits possibilities for community athletics outside of school. In the past, parents have expressed interest in a traveling volleyball team, but the high school did not have an open time to host practices, and the multipurpose room at the elementary school is not equipped to set up volleyball nets. Because of the lack of space for practice, the parents could not start a team.

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The air-conditioned gymnasium would be an ideal space for tournaments and sports camps throughout the year, said Swanson.

The district is hosting a public meeting on Nov. 9 at 7 p.m. in the Elementary School gymnasium, where community members will be able to learn more about the proposal, what the space will be used for and how much it will cost taxpayers, as well as ask questions. A similar meeting was held on Oct. 14, and Swiontek said he heard nothing but positive feedback from the small group that attended.

If voters approve the proposal at the Nov. 16 special election, construction on the addition is slated to start in May 2021 and wrap up in August 2023. The special election will be held 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. in the Larimore High School library.

Related Topics: EDUCATION
Ingrid Harbo joined the Grand Forks Herald in September 2021.

Harbo covers Grand Forks region news, and also writes about business in Grand Forks and the surrounding area.

Readers can reach Harbo at 701-780-1124 or iharbo@gfherald.com. Follow her on Twitter @ingridaharbo.
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